Monday, June 10, 2013

MAIMONIDES on 'aboda zara. The evolution of an honest mistake

Of its 613 Mitzvot (commandments) the Tora dedicates 51 to the banning of idol worshiping or 'aboda zara. In His book Mishne Tora Maimonides devotes twelve chapters to the Laws of idolatry. 

He begins by explaining (Hilkhot 'abodat kokhabim 1:1) that idol worshiping owes its origins to a collective human error. A tragic misunderstanding.  In the times of Enoch  , the grandson of Adam, people thought that since God created so many servants for the sake of humanity, worshiping those servants would please the Creator, in the same way that a King would be pleased if his ministers are respected and praised. 

Take for example the most important and visible of God's "servants" in this world, which by the way, it was adored by virtually every ancient civilization: the sun.  Without the sun life could not exist in our planet. In the Intelligently Designed food chain sunlight is the first link, allowing plants to make their own food and replenishing free oxygen in the world (photosynthesis). Sunlight triggers the process of rain.  The sun "naturally" desalinates the ocean water transforming it into freshwater. Life in our planet depends on the sun. Now, the people at the time of Enoch probably did not know all the amazing properties of the sun. What they saw is that the sun is the source of light and heat. And that was enough for them to consider that the sun was worthy of being worshipped as one of God's servants.   

Evolution did the rest. Maimonides says that:  "Once this idea came to their hearts, they began to build sanctuaries to the stars and offer sacrifices to them...". Again, not as a rebellion against the Creator but "...thinking that by doing so, they were fulfilling the will of the Creator. This was the root (origins) of idol worshipping". 

(to be continued)